It's a whole new world ... Well, not really. If you're a fan of all things Disney, then this is familiar territory. The original 1992 animated film Aladdin is considered among the classics in a long list of animated Disney films that date all the way back to 1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. These days, all the classics that we enjoyed watching as kids are being remade and reimagined in live-action, such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and — this summer — the Lion King. Now in 2019, the timeless tale of Aladdin and his magical lamp is the latest Disney classic to be given the live-action remake treatment with Aladdin, directed by Guy Ritchie.
For the most part, the plot of the new film remains the same as in the 1992 original. Aladdin is an impoverished young street urchin in the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah. His only companion is his pet monkey, Abu. Due to their situation, Aladdin and Abu often steal to survive.
Like so many out there, I love the original animated version and it's one of my favorite Disney movies of all time. When I heard the news that Aladdin was going to get a live-action remake, I was pretty stoked. I still remember talking with one of my close friends about it and she was just as excited as I was. I told her “we just have to see it” when it came out in theaters. That conversation was two years ago. We waited two years for this moment! We finally got to see the movie on the day of its official release and we absolutely loved it. Kudos to Disney, who did not disappoint.
This new version of Aladdin is similar to the original in many ways, but at the same time, it also deviates from the original and gives the audience something fresh and new. The most noticeable change is the addition of a brand-new character not present in the 1992 film: Dalia, Princess Jasmine's handmaiden and most loyal confidante. In the original, Jasmine was a loner. All she had was her father and her pet Bengal tiger Rajah (don't worry, he's in this one, too). I think giving Jasmine a best friend was a nice touch. Dalia provides some comic relief and serves to further humanize Genie and give more character development to Jasmine.
While the music in the new film is pretty much the same, some slight alterations have been made. For example, the Genie's signature theme, "Friend Like Me," now has a rap feel in order to fit the personality of Will Smith who plays Genie. Now, the soundtrack does feature a brand-new song titled "Speechless" which is Princess Jasmine's solo. This new addition to the Aladdin soundtrack is phenomenal and Naomi Scott, who plays Jasmine, kills it with this song.
But what I really want to talk about is the cast. The cast as a whole was great, but the ones that really stood out and are the MVPs of the film are Will Smith and Naomi Scott. Yes, just like pretty much everybody, I was not in favor of Will Smith taking on the role that was originally played by the late Robin Williams. A few months ago, when we got the first look at Smith as the genie in "blue form," I (and everyone on the internet) was not pleased, mostly because of the cheesy looking CGI, and almost immediately, a bunch of internet memes ridiculing him began popping up online. My personal favorite was the one comparing Will Smith's Genie to the character Tobias Funke from Arrested Development. But as time went on, I began to warm up to Will Smith as the genie and I noticed that the CGI seemed to improve in the full trailer.
Now that I've seen the movie, I can tell you that Will Smith was excellent. Not only did he deliver a great performance, but more importantly, he made the character his own. He did have a couple of moments that were inspired by Robin Williams, but for the majority of the film, it wasn't a complete copycat and it was the right thing to do because, let's be honest, you can't imitate Robin Williams. So, by focusing on being original, Will Smith exceeded my expectations. For the role of the genie, you needed a larger than life actor, and like Robin Williams before him, Will Smith is an actor who can bring this character to life in a new way that is entertaining and enjoyable. Also, the CGI wasn't too bad. It's much better the more you see it.
Naomi Scott is the other cast member that truly shined in Aladdin. Her take on Princess Jasmine is outstanding. The things that I've always liked about Jasmine are her strength, ambition, kindness, and wisdom. In this new version, not only are those traits all there, but they're also amplified a bit and Naomi Scott hits the nail on the head. I already mentioned her singing once and I'll mention it again. She sounded beautiful. Listening to Naomi Scott sing her part in "A Whole New World" and her new song "Speechless" is absolutely wonderful. Her voice is great, her acting is great, and overall, she is just beautiful in this film. Naomi is the total package and the role of Princess Jasmine was definitely meant for her.
On top of all that, the character is more fleshed out. We know that in the original, Jasmine's deal is she doesn't want to marry just some prince as the law says, she wants to marry someone she genuinely loves. In this version, however, marrying a prince is the least of her concerns. Instead, she wants to become the next ruler and her motive is clear and simple: she wants to help her people because she cares about them. It's a very nice addition to her character.
I could talk more about the new Aladdin, but I don't want to give too much away. I highly recommend this movie. It's well done and definitely fun for the whole family. If you're a Disney fanatic and love all the old Disney princess movies, then this is a movie for you.